[Ppnews] Palestine - The prisoners are the living martyrs

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 12 14:23:01 EDT 2011

"The prisoners are the living martyrs"

<http://electronicintifada.net/people/shahd-abusalama>Shahd Abusalama
Electronic Intifada
<http://electronicintifada.net/location/gaza-city>Gaza City
11 October 2011

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip hold photos of 
imprisoned family members during a solidarity 
protest with hunger strikers in Israeli jails.

I haven’t been getting enough sleep lately. Last 
night I was exhausted in body and mind, but tried 
to keep my eyes open to follow updates on the 
prisoners’ conditions. My heart and mind were 
with them completely, in every corner of the 
horrible Israeli prisons where our heroes 
continue to display persistence and steadfastness.

Deciding to rebel against the cruel conditions 
they could no longer endure, hundreds of 
prisoners started a 
strike on 27 September. Approximately 6,000 
detainees inside Israeli prisons are forgotten 
about and treated as if they are less than animals.

Israel, which claims to be the only democracy in 
the Middle East, seems to forget that prisoners 
are humans and have rights. The Palestinian 
prisoners are on hunger strike in the hope that 
Israel will grant their simple demands. But while 
they are calling in loud voices for their rights, 
Israel is reacting negatively, using every method 
it has to force the prisoners to give up. 
Prisoners are being sent to isolation cells in 
increasing numbers, family visits and lawyers are 
being denied, families threatened, and identity 
cards, belongings and clothing confiscated. This 
is all in addition to the constant torment they already have to endure.

Israel is violating international law and nobody 
is stopping it. Oh, pardon me for forgetting that 
Israel is beyond any law! Approximately 285 
Palestinian children are currently imprisoned, 
and the world is still silent. Nobody will dare challenge Israel.

I am very emotionally attached to the prisoners’ 
issue, especially their hunger strike, not only 
because I am Palestinian but also because I am 
the daughter of a released prisoner. I was 
brought up hearing my father’s sad stories, full 
of suffering and despair, which remain stuck in 
his memory and will never leave him.

My father’s experience of hunger striking

My father’s eyes would have never seen the sun if 
Ahmad Jibril of the Popular Front for the 
Liberation of Palestine  ­ General Command 
(PFLP-GC) didn’t manage to make a deal exchanging 
three Israeli prisoners he held captive in 1985, 
in return for the release of 1,250 Palestinian 
political prisoners. My family was watching the 
news concerning the current prisoners’ hunger 
strike when Dad started telling us about his 
imprisonment, which lasted for 15 years.

“I witnessed and participated in the longest 
hunger strike in the history of Palestinian 
prisoners in 1982, which lasted for 33 
consecutive days,” he said. “Three prisoners died 
and tens of cases were sent to hospital, 
including about 27 for dehydration, but what else 
could we do to pressure them to provide us with the smallest things?”

Thinking deeply about my father’s words, and 
trying to imagine the awful conditions of the 
Palestinians inside the merciless Israeli jails, 
broke my heart. All the unbearable treatment 
prisoners endure is totally unfair and against humanity.

Before I wrote this article, I took part in a 
Gaza City demonstration in solidarity with these 
prisoners, whose health is getting worse every 
day, but who will bravely continue. I was lucky 
to not have early lectures at university, so I 
could be there at 9:00 am protesting against the 
situation facing our prisoners. I had some 
conversations with other women protesting there, 
too. Most of them were either released prisoners 
or had sons, brothers, or husbands in prison and on hunger strike.

One of them was a mother of six children, who 
grew up as if they were fatherless ­ her husband 
is spending his 26th year inside a damned Israeli 
prison. “I was one month pregnant with my 
youngest girl, who is 25 years old now, when my 
husband was arrested,” she said. “My oldest girl 
was only seven years old. All my kids do have a 
father but they became adults without their father around, like orphans.”

She kept describing to me how hard it was to be 
alone without her husband taking care of six 
children, and how much she suffered and endured 
to make her husband, sentenced to lifelong 
imprisonment, proud of his children when he 
hopefully someday gets his freedom back. “I was 
very young, only 24 years old, when he went to 
prison. I stayed in this state of a married woman 
who has to live without a husband for 26 years 
for my six children. Thankfully, I now have 25 
grandchildren,” she said proudly.

Miracles needed to contact prisoners

Then she burst out crying, and said that she was 
worried because she heard that the Israeli army 
attacked Ashkelon prison where her husband is 
held the day before. They violently attempted to 
force the impossible ­ to make the hunger strike end.

I couldn’t hide my tears anymore, despite trying 
so hard not to let them fall. I didn’t know what 
to do to calm her down. The woman told me that 
she and all other prisoners’ families have been 
denied visitation rights since 
won the 2006 election. They hear nothing from 
their imprisoned family members, except rarely, 
when some miracle happens; like when someone from 
the West Bank visits relatives who are imprisoned 
with her husband. Then, her husband can ask the 
visitor to convey a message to her that he is doing well.

I couldn’t say anything but for prayers that God 
provide her with patience and that her husband gets his freedom back soon.

My father has always said that prisoners are the 
living martyrs. I think they really deserve this 
honor for all the injustice and suffering they 
endure. This open hunger strike of the 
Palestinian prisoners will continue until Israel 
addresses their demands. International solidarity 
is needed now more than ever. Everyone needs to 
wake up and do something. We shouldn’t let the 
cruel conditions of the Palestinian detainees last forever.

Shahd Abusalama is an artist, blogger and English 
literature student from the Gaza Strip. Her blog 
is called <http://palestinefrommyeyes.blogspot.com/>Palestine from My Eyes.

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